Monday, 18 June 2012

How Could the Women's 200m Free Final Unfold in London?

One of the reasons the women's 200m Freestyle holds such intrigue is the different strengths of the favourites. Here is a virtual run down of six of the main protagonists' splits, taken from their best swims during the last two years.


1. Sjoestrom - 26.71
2. Heemskerk - 26.90
3. Schmitt - 27.01
4. Franklin - 27.09
5. Muffat - 27.18
6. Pellegrini - 27.62


1. Heemskerk - 55.56 (28.66)
2. Schmitt - 55.97 (28.96)
3. Sjoestrom - 56.09 (29.38)
4. Muffat - 56.39 (29.21)
5. Franklin - 56.44 (29.35)
6. Pellegrini - 57.04 (29.42)


1. Heemskerk - 1:25.27 (29.71)
2. Sjoestrom - 1:25.54 (29.45)
3. Muffat - 1:25.57 (29.18)
4. Schmitt - 1:25.73 (29.76)
5. Franklin - 1:25.82 (29.38)
6. Pellegrini - 1:26.18 (29.14)


1. Muffat - 1:54.66 (29.09)
2. Schmitt - 1:55.04 (29.31)
3. Franklin - 1:55.06 (29.24)
4. Sjoestrom - 1:55.23 (29.69)
5. Heemskerk - 1:55.54 (30.27)
6. Pellegrini - 1:55.58 (29.40)

Previous Race Tactics

Early gas - Femke Heemskerk, Sarah Sjoestrom
Fast 1st, 2nd & 4th 50s, slow 3rd 50 - Allison Schmitt
Consistent splits - Camille Muffat, Missy Franklin
Late surge - Federica Pellegrini


 Sjoestrom took her race out very hard for the first 50m, before settling into a manageable pace. As a result she was able to keep all splits sub-30 seconds. She also had very little competition when she swam her time in London. She might be dragged along with Heemskerk for 150m at a quicker pace and could have the strength to hang on.
 Allison Schmitt had a topsy-turvy race. She seemed to come off the gas slightly on the 3rd 50m, before picking up her pace again on the final 50m. If she had split 29.36 instead of 29.76 on the 3rd 50m she would have snuck inside Muffat's time. Slowing down on the 3rd 50m in London would likely result in her being passed by some of the other swimmers.
 Federica Pellegrini had the slowest split of all six swimmers for the first two 50m splits, she then made a big move between 100m and 150m. In London she may need to be closer to the action at 100m. When she won in Rome 2009 (with a suit on) she went out in 27.34 and 55.60 and was then able to come back in 28.78 and 28.60. With a 0.5second allowance for the suit per 50m, her last two laps look very much like those of Camille Muffat's.
 Femke Heemskerk showed at the Sette Colli competition that she still favours using her early speed in this event. If she tweaks her pacing slightly and gets to 150m in 26.9 / 55.7 (28.8) / 1:25.2 (29.5) she might have enough in reserve to get back home in a sub-30 second split, which would put her well in the frame for the medals.
 Camille Muffat's 1:55.21 from the Monaco Mare Nostrum meeting last week was a swim that has been slightly overlooked. The time was fast, but slower than her 1:54.66 from the week before... what wasn't highlighted though were her splits. In Monaco Muffat swam 27.96 / 57.86 / 1:27.35 / 1:55.21 - her final 50m split was an incredible 27.86 (a good split for most elite male 200m Freestylers). This could indicate that Muffat is setting up a Plan A and a Plan B depending on how the race or competition unfolds.
 We have yet to see Missy Franklin at her best in 2012 but her 1:55.04 relay first leg from Shanghai was very similar in pacing to Camille Muffat's 1:54.66. Their 50m splits were never more than 0.2 seconds apart from each other. Her 200m Backstroke race tactics also seem to confirm that she favours a more even race pace with a slight increase of speed on the final 50m.


  1. Interesting analyses per usual, Tom!

  2. Nicely laid out there, Tom, thanks.

    It will be interesting to revisit this topic in a week's time, to assess if the landscape will have been reshaped by the results from the American trials.

  3. What aswimfan said ;)

    Muffat can only disappoint in London, that's how strong she looks at the moment.
    That last 50m from Monaco shows that she can keep up with Pellegrini, if it's a tactical final. But if Heemskerk makes it to the final, I don't think we will see any sub 28s last 50 from Muffat ;)
    Only Pellegrini is cool enough to get close to that in a major final ;)
    In Shanghai, she was 7th. at the first 50, 5th. at 100m, 3rd. at 150m and won it.
    And those who think she cant drop 2 sec. from her best this year, will be proven wrong ;)

    Muffat and Pellegrini will take gold and silver, but who wins it, I will not guess.

    Another prediction: US women who post very fast times at trials (world no.1-2), will not do so in London in 200m and longer events. ;-)

  4. What Bjarnason said ;-)

    Muffat or Pellegrini, could be either one. No one else will come close.

    No Americans be it Schmidt or Franklin or Vollmer will medal in this event, regardless of trial times posted.

    The double taper will hurt their chances seriously, so their best races will come a month before London ;-)

  5. I agree with Bjarnasson too, I had been think Schmitt to get in there but having really delved into this over the past week I am looking more and more towards the European ladies. If Schmitt can reproduce I see her medalling but I am not sure she will after trials.

    I am thinking Muffat, Pellegrini and someone to burst out of the woodwork, maybe one of the Chinese girls. I think if Tang Yi gets in the final she could medal, she has the raw speed and when it comes to toughing it out she is proven (Anchoring the Chinese relays in 2011 with 53.1 and 1.55 low) the latter anchor split suggests she has time to drop over 200m.

    I am not sure for bronze, but Camille and Federica look great right now.

  6. Yanks getting a medal in the 200m fr individual for London 2012 is just as likely as England winning Euro 2012 - and you can quote me on that one!

    1. lol. that's harsh

    2. We play Italy in the next round. They should be pushovers.

    3. Well reality tends to be a wee harsh, unlike fantasy lol

      Americans will no doubt put up quite a number of world leading times next week, I'm not questioning that at all.

      Their partisan press will then predictably get all worked up in a silly frenzy, for example crowning the next female Phelps to be a lock for 7 golds (remind you of a certain multi event youngster from '08?)

      Or going on bout how Phelps & Lochte racing the 200 free will really just be a formality... Never mind the reality that they are going to be seriously challenged by the likes of Park, Agnel, Biedermann or Sun.

      They will conveniently overlook the sobering statistics that the majority of their Olympians will most likely fail to better or even replicate their times from their trials at the big event. (Phelps & Soni excepted, they have massive enough talent to overcome having to retaper for London)

    4. Please,
      the laws of probability tell us that whether or not an 08 mutli-eventer performs to expectation, has 0 relation to how a different swimmer performers in '12. IE. had Phelps choked in Beijing, it would not affect Lochte's abilities to seek out multiple individual golds. We saw the same with Spitz in his 2 olympic campaigns. Sheer numbers tells us that a certain portion of attempts at multi-event glory is going to end in disappointment.

      However, I would argue that the chance of Franklin/Schmitt winning this race is at least equal to the chance of Muffat/Pellegrini/Sjostrom

    5. John26,

      I agree with you.

      In fact, I still have Franklin as my pick to win the 200 free.

      Also, the nature, events, and schedule of Franklin is completely different than Hoff's, not to mention that Franklin is more talented than Hoff and is better equipped to deal with pressure.

      Unfortunately for Hoff, her very first event was 400 IM, and she never recovered from that one.

    6. This is all unfair on Katie Hoff. Katie had a long career with an exemplary year in 07 when she added the 400 & 800 to her range.

      I still feel very bad for Katie in Beijing. You guys have never been where that program took her -to the sheer ends of sporting humiliation .It is not an easy thing to recover from.

      Missy may or may not be greater than Katie. She has 1 world title whereas at the same age Katie had plenty.

  7. "Franklin is more talented than Hoff"

    you have a problem with Hoff or something??

    1. notaswimfan,

      I actually really like Hoff, but I personally think Franklin is more (naturally) talented than Hoff. For example: Franklin's physique is taller, and better proportioned to swim. Even Bob Bowman has said: "Franklin is the only other swimmer apart from Phelps whose body is built to swim fast".
      It's all on record. google it.

      I hope you don't have a problem with other people's opinion.

    2. I think there was unreal expectation place on Hoff. Even going into Beijing, she was probably a fairly solid pick for gold in the 400IM, a solid pick for a medal (challenger for gold, but most likely silver or bronze) in the 400free, 200IM, and 800 free. She didn't meet expectations. But in terms of the medals she came home with... it wasn't a complete surprise if you look at the rankings from 2008.

      The bigger disappointment came in that she was unable to improve from her trial times, which probably would've made teh difference between silver and gold, bronze and silver and 4rth and a medal.

      On the other hand, i can honestly say that Missy's performance in Shanghai was the most impressive (in the sense that it showed glimpse of unparallel prowess) of any female swimmer since I started following the sport. If she stagnates from last year, I would expect her to take home similar medal hardware as I projected for Hoff going into the Olympics, probably half gold, half others. However, as the case may be, we're dealing with an an athlete who is younger, dropping times like an age grouper, and most importantly relaxed and appears mentally strong enough to handle the task.

  8. "Partisan" Yank comments ahead.

    I'm a bit surprised at the lack of respect in this thread being paid to Schmitt. A swimmer capable of 1:55 flat untapered is not to be underestimated. Also, if you watch the swim, she looks very controlled. She's a serious athlete.

  9. My "lack" of gushing enthusiasm for both Muffat and Schmitt stem from my belief that a 1:55 and 1:54.6 are very very fast already, forget the fact that they are untapered and maybe little rested.
    If that is so, they should go way under 1:54 in London, and my brain just cannot seem to reconcile that someone will swim 1:53mid

    Meanwhile, Missy did 1:55 a year ago, so she's done that. And I really think she can go 1:54flat.
    If only Missy specializes in 100-200 free only, she'll approach both WRs.

  10. My heart still goes out to Katie Hoff 2 this day.. She was defeated by a big margin in the 400Im which shook her confidence. She came big strong in the 400free and was out touched by Adlington which was devastaying 4 her to miss gold by 0.07. Franklin's schedule is better than Katie and a relay medal on the 1st day (400free relay gold/silververy likely) will give Missy a lot of confidence for the rest of the competition. Good luck Missy and dont forget 2 smile on the podium :)

    1. 4x100 free realy... really?

      I can only see Kromowidjojo, Veldhuis, Dekker & Heemskerk/Schreuder win that one for Netherland, and Australia taking 2nd ;)

  11. Don't know what it is with Americans who keep expecting such superhuman feats from Franklin, poor girl lol Talented swimmer without much doubt but massively overhyped imo.

    400 fr relay is a foregone conclusion, the Dutch are just too ahead of everyone else both on paper and in reality. No blinking way USA will take gold here, in fact AUS are favoured for silver since this will be a very different AUS squad in London, nothing like their underperforming B quartet from Shanghai.

    Put it this way, last year Coughlin led off faster than anyone else on her leg, Franklin had a real cracker of a swim and Vollmer wasn't too far behind, yet Americans lost to the Netherlands by a sizeable margin of over half a second.

    Alright Hardy did choke a bit didn't she but her time wasn't THAT dodgy, certainly nothing like Dekker's horrible 0.81 deficit to Coughlin, and it should be noted Kromowidjojo was having a bit of an off year to say the least, unlike 2012 where she has belonged in a league of her own.

    So no, I see a bronze at best for the American women relay to kick things off. Franklin will get a few medals of various colours (best chances of a gold for her will come in the 200 bk, with chances of a minor one in the 100 bk), but will not make it to the medal ceremony in either the 200 or 100 free as the competition has just got that much better.

    1. British Gas,
      So if the competition has just got that much better in 100/200 free, why can't Missy Franklin also gets much better in 100/200 free. In fact, she's at 17 yo where female swimmers starting to reach their peak and usually cut down their PBs in chunks.
      Last year Missy already swam 1:55.0, even if she improves at only half the rate of Muffat's, she'll still be at least as fast as Muffat.

      The 100 free is a bit tricky though, and I don't think she can beat the premier sprint specialist yet (Kromowidjojo), but I think she can still be within a chance to win a minor medal.

    2. Let's be realistic, Missy Franklin already peaked last summer. Cos there has been nothing in her Grand Prix times this year indicating another startling rate of improvement for her.

      On the other hand, a number of her rivals have made significant strides in 2012. Notably Muffat, Kromowidjojo, Sjostrom, and Franklin's mate, Schmitt.

      Olympic years as we all know are always something special, the standards are more often than not upped significantly from the off years. What was a world leadaing time last year may no longer be even good enough for a medal this summer.

    3. She was 156.7 in the 200 in December Nationals, which, judging from her 54.8 in the 100free and 100.1 in the 100back at the same meet, she treated it as a Grand Prix. In fact, these 100 swims are slower than her 2011 Grand Prix times. If you go by your logic of judging taper time using inseason time, we're still looking at an extremely fast performance.

      On top of this, you've got to consider that swim was 7 months ago. We haven't heard anything about a holdup in training, so presumably, she's at least going to stay the same level.

      We will see in about 5 days, but my guess is that Missy is likely going to dethrone Muffat from the top of the world rankings.

  12. Reckon we shall see very soon. I still think you blokes are being very, very optimistic in your predictions for Franklin. Her times have generally regressed since last Dec, so unless Schmitz has been putting his protege thru a Lochte-esque training regime these past 6 months, I don't foresee a surprise from her, though she should still be talented enough to earn an Olympic spot in this event.

    If anyone's going to put in a 200 time at American trials that will give notice to Muffat, chances are it'll be Schmitt not Franklin. There will be some extremely fast swims at this meet as there usually are, but most of the performances will be capped at the top end there and not be repeated in 3 weeks' time due to the daft timing of your trials.

    Though I'd very much like to see Schmitt & Franklin dominate Pellegrini in London, after what Italy did to us in the football match this evening... :D

    1. I admire anyone who preserve their faith in the england national team :D

    2. haha, good one. Italy was good this evening, and.. well let's just face it, England were just not good enough ;)

      In London, Pellegrini will be good enough.. just like the Italian football team was this evening ;)